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Literal live-to-air TV

7/9/2003

CALGARY - Low-fare carrier WestJet announced plans yesterday to become the first Canadian airline to offer its passengers live television.

The company has signed an agreement with LiveTV - a wholly-owned subsidiary of U.S. discount carrier JetBlue Airways - and Bell ExpressVu to offer its customers 24 channels of live Bell ExpressVu satellite programming in every seatback of the airline's next generation Boeing 737-700 aircraft. WestJet plans to spend over $20 million on the project.

The 13-year agreement signed between WestJet and LiveTV applies to installation on 40 aircraft with the option to install the system on future aircraft deliveries as requested. LiveTV is contracted to provide and maintain its satellite receiving equipment onboard the aircraft. WestJet will purchase the seat equipment and monitors and lease the satellite receiving equipment.

The Calgary-based airline signed a letter of intent with Bell ExpressVu to provide satellite programming for the new service for which WestJet will pay a service fee. WestJet and Bell ExpressVu will also jointly market and promote the service. "The obligations of the parties under the agreements are subject to the satisfaction of specified conditions, including definitive documents to be negotiated and finalized with Bell ExpressVu within the next 45 days," said the press release.

WestJet plans to offer TV to its guests free of charge until all of its 700-series aircraft are configured and then will review whether to charge a fee for guests once the entire fleet is equipped with the system.

Installation of the equipment on WestJet's fleet of 737-700 series aircraft is expected to commence in the fourth quarter of 2003 and will be completed by the first quarter of 2004. The airline expects to have 28 Boeing 737-700 series aircraft in its fleet at that time.

WestJet's seatback satellite programming from Bell ExpressVu will offer a selection of Bell ExpressVu's 300-plus channels including news, sports, children's and leisure programming that can be individually selected by the traveler.

The in-flight system features a true real-time, at-home entertainment experience in the air and includes individual adjustable seat-back screens, personal headphones and a control for channel, brightness, and volume mounted on the armrests.

"We're excited to be able to bring this innovative live satellite television programming to our guests," said Clive Beddoe, WestJet's president and CEO. "We have been monitoring for some time the attractiveness of this product on JetBlue and have been very impressed with their results, both from a reliability perspective and from the enthusiasm in which the public has embraced this product.

"As we continue to increase the length of our flights across Canada, we recognize the importance of offering additional services for our long-haul guests, and we're pleased to be the first airline in Canada to offer live, satellite television."

WestJet currently serves 26 Canadian cities.

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